This April, I had the incredible honor of being present at a friend's homebirth. You might have heard of my friend, Jessica from The Leaky B@@b. We don't know each other very well(better now!), and yet she asked me to be there with her as she gave birth, to facilitate the live chat and video that she wanted to have running as she labored and birthed. I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped all the way to the floor when she asked me! If you know me at all, you know that I'm super passionate about birth and dream of being a midwife someday, so to have the opportunity to be at a birth without having to wait until I'm finished with all the training I'll need was a dream come true for me. And then to have it be the birth of someone that's making waves in the breastfeeding world, that has built the largest interactive breastfeeding support community on facebook(over 53,000 people now!), and a woman that I truly admire- let's just say I was humbled, honored, and excited for the opportunity.
Jessica decided that she wanted to have a live video stream running on her blog as she gave birth. Why in the world would she choose to share such an intimate moment live for anyone to view? Stated simply, to normalize birth and to empower women. Of course, I'm all for that! Jessica told me that she has learned so much and felt so empowered by the birth videos that she had watched years ago, and that she wanted to pass that experience on and hopefully empower others. I think she did that and more, and it was so, so amazing to watch.
Jessica contacted me around 10AM on Thursday, April 19th. Of course, you never know when someone is going to go into labor, but this birth worked out pretty much perfectly for me. SInce we only have one car, and Thad works so much(sometimes across town), I had several contingency plans in place. Thankfully I didn't have to use any of them- when I got the message from Jessica, Thad was already at home, with no big plans for the day! I was able to quickly throw some stuff together and we headed out the door. I was so, so excited, and a little nervous too. I knew I had a lot of responsibility on my shoulders, and I didn't want to screw it up! I said a quick prayer that I'd be able to do everything that Jessica wanted me to do, and that I'd be a good representative of her heart in sharing the birth and that I wouldn't do anything to damage The Leaky B@@b's good reputation!
Jessica's house is about an hour from mine, but by the time I got over there she was still in early labor. The Piano Man(Jessica's husband) got me started on the live chat that he had just set up. Within minutes there were several hundred people! We couldn't believe how fast they were showing up! So much love and so many well wishes for Jessica and her family. If it wasn't obvious before that this woman has touched many lives, there's no doubt now. The comments were just pouring in, both on the live chat and The Leaky B@@b facebook wall. Jessica didn't want the live video feed turned on until closer to delivery, but her friend Sue took some short videos of Jessica and The Piano Man dancing through contractions. Everyone loved it- they were just eating up each picture and video.
The atmosphere in the house was so peaceful in those early labor hours. Everyone was calm and relaxed, and Jessica had the most wonderful labor playlist turned up loud. Every time she'd have a contraction she'd stand in the middle of the living room, and sway and sing with the music. When the contraction got intense, she'd call for The Piano Man and he'd dance with her or press on her hips. You could see the love flowing through them as they gazed into each others eyes- it was truly idyllic. Whenver Jessica would get a contraction, she'd call out, "Tell me", and The Piano Man would reply, "I love you". So, so sweet.
After a little while, Jessica's midwife showed up, along with her birth photographer. So, besides family, there were four of us there- Jessica's midwife, Cathy Rude; Jessica's friend and nurse that helped her so much with the ivs and everything needed for HG, Sue Potts; the birth photographer(so sorry I don't remember her name), and me. We were all just waiting! I've never been to a birth before, so I was a little curious as to what it would be like waiting around for the baby to come. I was there for over 12 hours total, but it really didn't seem like that long. The live chat and TLB facebook page kept me really busy. The downside of the program that we were using to host the chat and video was that I had to individually approve each and every comment. It was a total pain in the neck, both for me and the commenters!
After several hours, and after having the midwife break her water, Jessica decided to turn the camera on. All the viewers were totally thrilled about that! Questions and comments were pouring in! Everyone wanted to know who was who- they even asked me to step in front of the camera and wave. I'm pretty introverted, so I was very happy to hide in the corner out of view of the camera, but I did indulge their requests and gave a little wave. Everyone was so excited about that- I was just surprised that anyone cared! It still seemed surreal that there were so many people watching live. Jessica and The Piano Man were still doing the "Tell me", "I love you" routine with just about every contraction. Several viewers said that it was so sweet they were tearing up! Everyone was commenting about how supportive The Piano Man was, and how they wish he could give labor partner lessons to their husbands! He really did do an amazing job, and I'm blessed to say that I know the feeling, as Thad was also incredibly supportive during my two births. It really does make a huge difference to have the person that you love most be right there cheering you through the whole time.
If I remember right, the camera was on for about half an hour, but then Jessica's labor stalled a bit around 5 cms, so the camera was turned back off. She tried nipple stimulation with a pump, relaxed in the bath for a bit, and tried some different positions to encourage the baby to descend. The viewers weren't deterred by the break in the live video feed though. There were still about 16,000 people on the live chat, and the comments were literally coming in faster than I could approve them. I kept apologizing that I wasn't able to get to everyone's comments! I was pretty tired by that point, and my butt was going numb. I was trying not to let myself think any of those thoughts, because I knew that Jessica was in a lot more uncomfortable than I was! I finally decided that it would be wise to take a break while Jessica was in the bath and the camera was turned off. I didn't want to leave 16,000 people, but I had already been on the computer for around 8 hours, and I knew I should get a little rest before the baby really started coming. I sat in the living room and just relaxed for a couple of minutes and chatted with the birth photographer. I realized I was STARVING!!! (Next time I go to a birth, I'm definitely bringing more snacks.) I'm so thankful that Sue was willing to stop and get me some Larabars while she was out picking up something for the birth pool. Thank you Sue!
Whatever Jessica and her midwife did to encourage things along worked, because after an hour or two they headed back into the bedroom and turned the camera back on. I tucked myself into the corner of the room with Jessica's laptop and resumed chatting. To say that everyone was excited is an understatement. The number of people viewing the live chat was pushing 18,000 by that point! Amazing! I wish I had gotten a couple of screen shots, but it totally slipped my mind. (And my only regret of the whole thing is that I didn't get a picture of me and Jessica! Oh well.)
Jessica labored for a little while on the bed again, and then she started getting pushy! The viewers noticed immediately and started commenting. "Was that a push I heard?" "She sounds pushy!" Jessica was on her hands and knees on the bed, facing the camera and the side of the room where I was. She started to give a big push, and the midwife said something like, "Oh, here she comes, there's the head!" I was thinking she probably still had a little ways to go, and several more pushes before the baby was actually born. I started to get up really slowly, thinking maybe I should go see the baby crowning. No such luck- by the time I had gotten off the floor, I saw a baby on the bed! I couldn't believe how fast she came out!!! Jessica sat back on the bed, ripped her dress off(I don't think I've ever seen anyone move so fast!), and pulled her baby to her chest. I don't know if everyone else did, but I started tearing up! I'd dare say there's nothing more amazing in this world than seeing a baby being born into it.
Baby Arden started to pink up right away- she had amazing color. All the family gathered around to meet the new baby and start the bonding process. It brought back such wonderful memories from Tristan's birth. After a minute, I composed myself, and got back on the laptop to continue approving comments and make the birth announcement on TLB facebook page. Within minutes, the post had over 1,000 likes, and has nearly 6,000 likes today. So much love for this wonderful momma and her family. Jessica and The Piano Man announced the name that they chose for their little Sugarbaby- Arden Credence, which means passionate belief. I don't think any baby born into this family has much chance of not being passionate about something! ;) Arden latched on right away and did great with nursing! Again, I don't think she had much of an option there!
I was excited going into this, but I honestly wasn't sure what to expect, and definitely didn't know how deeply I'd be moved. But Arden's birth was inspiring to me on so many levels. I loved getting to meet Jessica's family and get a little taste of their life. It was so obvious that their home and family are just full of love, and I so enjoyed getting to watch them all interact. This is a family that's committed to each other, that's serious about what they believe in, and that's ready and willing to share their love with the world. It's so cool to know that families like this really exist, and I hope and pray that my own family can emulate them in some way. It was also so amazing to see how many thousands of people were moved and inspired as the watched the birth. To know that I played a role in sharing that with them is just incredibly humbling. As far as the birth itself- it's hard to put such a fully tangible, yet incredibly spiritual experience into words, but it's touched me so deeply. (More on that later.) I know I'm called to birth work, and I'm so thankful that my first experience was with such a normal, peaceful, perfect birth. Jessica, thank you so much for inviting and allowing me to be a part of Arden's birth- I'll be forever grateful.
Welcome, baby Arden! Do you know how many lives you've touched already?